2 puppies: Goodness and Mercy

Whenever we visit my father-in-law in his nursing home, we end our visit by saying Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer together. We all love the Shepherd psalm.

My wife tells me that the Hebrew word for “follow” in the last verse is quite vivid, meaning something like ‘pursue.’ She says it’s the kind of action like when a puppy follows you everywhere you go. I’m assuming my wife has been telling the truth because she is a careful, wise person. But even if something got mixed up where she heard this from, I like the thought anyway, that goodness, and mercy follow me around so closely they are like little puppies. (I like puppies, also.)

Do any of you know if the Hebrew for “follow” has the sense of ‘pursue’?

If so, how might we revise the last verse of Psalm 23 to reflect that connotation?

15 Comments

  1. John Hobbins
    Posted October 28, 2008 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    Here is the translation of Psalm 23 I posted on my blog many moons ago:

    יהוה is my shepherd,
    I shall not want.
    In grassy meadows he lets me lie,
    guides me to quiet streams,
    my spirit he revives.
    He leads me along the right paths
    as befits his name.

    Were I to walk through a dark valley,
    I would fear no evil,
    for you are with me,
    your rod and your staff –
    they afford me comfort.

    You spread a table before me
    in the face of my foes.
    You moisten my head with oil,
    my cup overflows.

    Surely goodness and kindness will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
    with my stay in the house of יהוה
    many days in length.

  2. Bob MacDonald
    Posted October 28, 2008 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    Hound would be an appropriate translation of pursue/follow.

    And I think rebuke is also appropriate for XSD in that verse. That’s because I know the voice that says to me – ‘we don’t do things that way’. A rebuke from HaShem is surely mercy incarnate.

    My first raw translation is here

  3. Wayne Leman
    Posted October 28, 2008 at 3:48 am | Permalink

    Pursue, see folks! There it is. Right from the Hebrew poet’s pen, er, keyboard. Now isn’t that just cool, or what?!

    Thanks for sharing that, John.

  4. Wayne Leman
    Posted October 28, 2008 at 3:49 am | Permalink

    Hunt and hound, now those are vivid words, also. Thanks for sharing your translation of Ps. 23, Bob.

  5. Dave Gregg
    Posted October 28, 2008 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Listen, I know this is off-topic, but I don’t know where else to ask this, as there is no forum connected to this site. So, please bear with the interuption.

    I’ve read in at least one standard reference work that in the history of the use of the Greek equivalent of baptism/to baptize that the word came to take on an alternate meaning: death/to die, from the idea of drowning, and the constant use of the word in reference to drowned sailors at sea.

    My question is whether any of you out there have any thoughts as to whether this ancient sense of the word carries weight in the Koine of the New Testament, such as in passages like Colossians 2:12?

  6. John Radcliffe
    Posted October 28, 2008 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Wayne,

    Please also excuse me from taking you off-topic. My question is triggered your sentence: “I like puppies, also.” I don’t want to hijack your thread, so please feel free to delete, ignore or move this comment as you consider appropriate.
    ___

    I find that the way many people use “also” frequently “jars” on my ear when I’m reading. The reason would seem to be that in “standard” English (i.e. English as used the majority of speakers and writers) “also” is (or can be) post-fixed, while to me it “should” always be pre-fixed (so I would never use it at the end of a clause).

    Do you have any thoughts? Does anyone else reading this share my “problem”, or is it just me?

    I give below examples from Mark’s gospel, where the TNIV I quote scores 9 “ok” out of 12 uses.

    These 3 are problematic to me (they “jar” on my ear):

    1:38 “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also.”
    I would reword this as: “… so I can also preach there.” (Or “… so I can preach there too.”)

    8:7 “They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them.”
    I would put: “… he also gave thanks for them …” (Or “he gave thanks for them too”)

    14:67 “When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.”
    I would put “You were also with …” (Here I wouldn’t suggest “You too …” as it could be misheard as “You two …”)

    The remaining 9 all sound ok to me:

    1:34 “Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons.”
    2:26 “… he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread…. And he also gave some to his companions.”
    4:26 “He also said …”
    4:36 “Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him”
    6:41 “Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.”
    12:21 “The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child.”
    14:9 “Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
    15:32 “Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”
    15:41 “In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.”

  7. weirdcrackerjacks
    Posted October 28, 2008 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    The NET Bible translation uses “pursue”, “Surely your goodness and faithfulness will pursue me all my days…” There is a note for the word “pursue” which says:

    The use of רָדַף (radaf, “pursue, chase”) with טוֹב וָחֶסֶד (tov vakhesed, “goodness and faithfulness”) as subject is ironic. This is the only place in the entire OT where either of these nouns appears as the subject of this verb רָדַף (radaf, “pursue”). This verb is often used to describe the hostile actions of enemies. One might expect the psalmist’s enemies (see v. 5) to chase him, but ironically God’s “goodness and faithfulness” (which are personified and stand by metonymy for God himself) pursue him instead. The word “pursue” is used outside of its normal context in an ironic manner and creates a unique, but pleasant word picture of God’s favor (or a kind God) “chasing down” the one whom he loves.

  8. Wayne Leman
    Posted October 28, 2008 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    John, for many (but apparently not all, as your intuitions show), “also” and “too” are synonyms, interchangeable. For such speakers “also” appears in different places in a sentence depending on what it is is modifying (or within its “scope” to use a technical term).

    1:38 “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also.”

    Here “also” is “modifying” villages, that is, Jesus has been preaching in the location where he is speaking, but he wants to preach in other areas. “Also” here affects location.

    “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages–so I can also preach there.”

    Here (for me, anyway), “also” is “modifying” preach, that is, Jesus has been doing something, such as performing miracles, in the location in which he is speaking. Now he wants to add the activity of preaching to what he is doing.

    Now, it’s not quite as clearcut as this, since many people can get either the location or activity reference for “also” in the second sentence.

    As others have pointed out here, and I hope I have, as well, language speakers do not always follow the very rules which they themselves (or their parents and peers) typically do. But we still are able to get our intended meanings across to others, at least some of the time. :-)

  9. John Radcliffe
    Posted October 28, 2008 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your thoughts, Wayne

    It seems to me that in “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can also preach there”, I take “also” to refer to “preach there” rather than just “preach”. Analysing my preferred usage further in these extracts, it would seem that I like “also” to precede a verb, the exception being “were” (so “were also” as in 4:36 and 15:41 is ok, but I’m less happy with “also were” in 14:67, although it doesn’t grate as much as end-of-clause usage does).

    I’d guess this highlights one problem with trying to produce “standard” English translations: there’s no such thing as “standard English”. What sounds natural to some will sound odd to others. Now while I can *understand* the passages that have my non-preferred usage, usages that sound unnatural to the reader or listener still produce a “jolt” that detracts and distracts from what is actually being said.
    ___

    Back on topic, I see that HCSB, ISV, NAB (New American Bible), NLT2, Rotherham and Young all go for “pursue”.

  10. Peter Kirk
    Posted October 28, 2008 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    John, my instincts about “also” are similar to yours. For me, as a general rule, “also” relates to what follows, whereas “too” and “as well” relate to what precedes.

  11. Dru
    Posted October 28, 2008 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Wayne following your wife’s view, how about
    ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall dog me all the days of my life’.
    Or if that is too informal – ‘chase’.

  12. Wayne Leman
    Posted October 28, 2008 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Dru wondered:

    Wayne following your wife’s view, how about ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall dog me all the days of my life’.

    Sounds decent, Dru. Makes a nice pun with my blog post title and picture!

    Or if that is too informal – ‘chase’.

    This seems reasonable also.

    Thanks for the suggestions.

  13. moody1970
    Posted October 29, 2008 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this post. And I like the cute puppies that help illustrate the post.

  14. Posted October 29, 2008 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Nice post.

  15. Carl W. Conrad
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    About naming the animals rather than about Psalm 23: one of the finest craft potters we’ve ever known keeps goats in a remote area of our county on a high ridge near the Blue Ridge Parkway; she named three kids (goat kids!) “Surely,” “Goodness,” and “Mercy.” True story.


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